My mother hated to cook. When company came to the house, she would fret and stress out over what to feed them. Most of the time she would go out and buy Kentucky Fried Chicken or hamburgers from our local diner to bring home. On the rare occasion when she actually did cook, she made hotdogs or spaghetti and then she would ask everyone, “Does it taste OK?” mutiple times while they were chewing.
She grew up on a farm and constantly told me the stories about living on a farm in the 1940s and 50s. She remembered when they got indoor plumbing. She remembered when they got their first telephone. She remembered working from sunrise to sunset every day and she hated it. Summers, especially, were not her favorite. Working in the garden under a hot sun to harvest food that will then come into the house to be canned over an even hotter stove was not enjoyable to her.
As a kid, I begged her, “Can we start a garden?” We had a city lot. Well, it was actually a lot and a half with plenty of room for a garden. “It would mean less grass to cut?” I pleaded.
“Do you have any idea how much work a garden is? There’s no way I’m digging up the yard for that,” was always her reply.
“I’ll do all the work. I promise!” Was my last childhood plea. You can guess how that was received!
So, now that I’m an adult (or at least I pretend to act like one on occasion), I have a garden. This is my third home with a garden, and in the past I’ve gotten tons of produce each year that I would then freeze or can, while my mother grumbled something about how she didn’t understand why anyone would CHOOSE to do this. “It’s so hot. It’s so much work. You can buy it in the store,” and on and on and on.
My current garden doesn’t produce like my old ones did. Moving too far North into a climate with an incredibly short season will do that. Living in a forest doesn’t help. I refuse to cut down any of my trees in order to get better growing light to my garden. I live on a very small lot and I love my trees. So I have found other ways to get the food that I want – fruit truck sales, farmer’s markets, fresh vegetable stands, etc. And I can. I can because I love the idea of my work being able to have a shelf life of at least a year without taking up space in my freezer. I can because I love the taste of canned foods over frozen foods. I can because it is fun. I can because I love the sound of the pressure canner sizzling away on my stove, and the sound of my jars popping when they seal. I love the look of my cans sitting on the counter and resting after being pulled out of a hot water bath or the pressure canner. It’s something that connects me to the past, and it makes me happy.
I can jam, fruit, beans, meat, vegetables, and this year I’m going to start canning soups and stews. I can hear my mother moan, and I can see her eyes roll each time that I start a canning session, but for me this is not work. It is not too hot, even on the most humid days in July and August.I love to cook, and canning gives me fresh food without the added junk that is in so much of the food in the store. Mom often told me, “living on a farm, my mother canned everything that didn’t move. And sometimes she canned the slow moving stuff, too.”
I guess that her daugther does, too.